Residents object to apartments

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Challenge: Canton residents file an appeal to stop construction of an 80-unit complex atop an existing boat storage facility.

April 08, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

A DEVELOPMENT group headed by Dr. Selvin Passen has received city approval to begin construction of the next large residential project along the Canton waterfront in Baltimore, the 80-unit Lighthouse Landing apartment complex at 2701 Boston St.

But the city's issuance of the building permit has been challenged by three neighborhood residents concerned about fire issues related to the project, which is planned for construction above an existing boat storage facility.

After a building permit was issued last month, the residents filed an appeal with the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals. They say the city should not allow apartments to be constructed on top of a 50-foot-high "boatel" where up to 200 pleasure boats are stored, for safety reasons.

"At the minimum, boats in storage will contain gasoline, propane [cooking stoves], flares, flare caps, possible portable fuel cans, boat cleaning solvents, plastics, fiberglass and resins to make fiberglass," the residents stated in their appeal. "These materials are flammable, combustible, explosive and, as such, represent multiple hazards."

The appeal was filed March 12 by Canton residents Edward Wovas, Michael Miles and Milton Bates. Bates said the group is concerned that the city is not taking adequate steps to protect residents of the proposed apartments and the surrounding area, which he describes as a "crowded urban location."

He said he is particularly concerned in light of the recent fire at the Charles Towers apartments, which resulted in one death and forced many others to relocate.

"That boatel is in the wrong space," Bates said. The coupling of the [apartments and the boatel] is not a good idea. Since the city is not likely to ask them to remove the boatel, the least they can do is not allow the apartments above."

Passen, head of East Harbor Marine Center, said he is pleased to have the permit, has lined up financing, and hopes to begin construction this year. He said his team has made every effort to satisfy city and state officials and the community.

"I've complied with everything the city told me to do," he said. "I've done more than the city requires. The Fire Department has expressed its concerns, and I think we've come up with some answers that will make it a very safe building."

Fire safety features at Lighthouse Landing would include spark-proof exhaust fans, a heat-sensitive sprinkler system, vented stairways and a concrete fire wall between the boatel and the apartments.

Bates said he did not doubt Passen's sincerity. Given the size, location and nature of the project, he said, he would question the idea of combining housing and boat storage no matter who the developer was.

"It's not a matter of questioning his intent to build a safe environment," he said of the developer. "His ability to do it is what we question."

Atlantic Builders is the general contractor, and Levin/Brown & Associates is the architect. Plans call for three levels of residences to be built above the boatel, with rents from $1,200 to $2,700 per month.

After the appeal was filed, city officials ruled that the zoning board is not the proper body to consider an appeal because the residents weren't questioning any specific action taken by the city's zoning administrator.

The residents have been notified that the appropriate forum for their appeal is an administrative review board within the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, which issued the building permit. No hearing date has been set.

According to city officials, the developers are free to move ahead with construction while the appeal is pending. If the permit is revoked as a result of the appeal, however, the developers would have to halt construction.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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